Cabinet Minister Michael Gove has suggested that the British government’s latest lockdown measures for England may go well beyond the proposed 22 February end and well into March.
They came into effect at midnight. Schools had consistently been told to stay open – despite record-breaking levels of infection – but were then given less than a day’s notice to switch lessons on-line, with no guidance or preparation by the Department of Education.
In a televised address to the nation on Monday evening Prime Minister Boris Johnson claimed – in the face of obvious evidence to the contrary – that his government had the virus under control and its response was working well until the new more infectious Covid variant arrived.
His government expressly encouraged social mixing over Christmas despite warnings about greater infectiousness.
Allowing for the virus’ usual incubation, hospitals are now bracing themselves for a huge spike in admissions around the middle of this month.
The fear of NHS services being overwhelmed prompted the Chief Medical Officers of England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and NHS England to publicly recommend the toughest of lockdowns.
MPs are expected to nod it through in Westminster on Westminster after an early recall, albeit mainly by video conference.
The official government guidance is available as a downloadable PDF by clicking here.
The new lockdown applies across the whole of England including the Scilly Isles which had been in Tier 1.
The lockdown is more similar to the first one in March than the more recent one in November but there are differences.
Shielding has resumed and pubs must stay shut with takeaway pints banned.
People must stay at home except for five specific reasons or face significant fines.
Despite this there is little evidence of any restrictions or controls at main airports such as Heathrow with arrivals unchecked and free to take public transport such as the Underground.
Stay at home
People may leave home for one of five designated “reasonable excuses”:
· To go to work or volunteer if it’s impossible to do so from home, eg a construction or critical worker who can’t work from home.
· To shop for necessities including food and medicine.
· To exercise, which can be with your household or up to one other person from outside your household or bubble. The exercise should ideally be limited to once per day. Guidance is that people should try to do this locally.
· To provide care or help to a vulnerable person. This includes buying food or medicine for a disabled person or someone self-isolating.
· To attend medical appointments or seek medical care or fleeing the threat of harm or violence.
There are other ‘reasonable excuses’:
You may also leave home for education and registered childcare, if your children are eligible to attend despite closures.
You may also leave home to be with your childcare or support bubble, if you have one, but you are advised to keep it local.
You can also leave home to:
· provide emergency assistance
· be with someone giving birth
· visit someone who is dying
· visit a care home, hospital or hospice resident
· fulfil animal welfare reasons including going to a vet
· attend a support group (of up to 15 people)
· attend communal worship or life events such as weddings and funerals
· fulfil a legal obligation
· carry out activity related to buying, selling, letting or renting a property
· fulfil respite care where that care is being provided to a vulnerable person or a person with a disability, or is a short break in respect of a looked-after child.
Police have powers to enforce through fines and dispersing orders. Fines stay at their current level of £200 for a first offence.
Schools, education and childcare
All primary schools, secondary schools and colleges are shut to almost all pupils.
Only children of key workers and vulnerable children can attend in person. Others must learn remotely. There are no known plans for assisting with IT devices or broadband connectivity despite nearly a year in which Education bosses could prepare.
A system of free school meals for eligible pupils has been promised but not started and details are not yet known.
GCSEs and A Levels are cancelled but the more vocational BTecs will go ahead this week as scheduled.
When these public exams were replaced with teacher assessments last year they drew widespread criticism for anomalous and unfair projected results.
Again, it is not known yet how or by what the exams will be replaced.
Early years such as nurseries; alternative provision; and special schools remain open.
Nursery age, vulnerable children and children of critical workers over 5 years of age may still attend childcare.
University students may not return and are expected to study from wherever they are staying until at least mid-February. There are no known plans to reimburse them for their hefty accommodation fees.
In person teaching at university is allowed for a small number of critical courses such as those studying to work in the health service.
Meeting friends and family
Persons may not meet people from outside their household or ‘bubble’ anywhere – indoors or outdoors.
However, one person may take exercise outside with one person from another household.
But they may not sit down and have a drink together in the park as was permitted under the recent Tier 4 restrictions.
And persons may not do anything deemed to be “recreation and leisure” with that other person, as was permitted in the month-long November lockdown.
Persons should stay two metres apart or one metre with extra precautions.
Shielding resumes but details are sketchy – the two million people affected vulnerable people have been told they will shortly receive letters with details of what they must do.
‘Clinically extremely vulnerable’ people must stay at home as much as possible and should
only leave for exercise and health appointments.
They may not go to work even if they cannot work from home and must avoid all busy places including shops and pharmacies.
However, there is NO special support or food parcels like in March.
Support bubbles can continue since they were established in June 2020
Support and childcare bubbles will remain as they currently are under the new lockdown.
Support bubbles allow a single-adult household, or a couple with a child under one, to permanently ‘bubble up’ with one other household of any size. They can act as though they’re in the same household.
A childcare bubble in which one household links with one other household to provide informal childcare – unpaid and unregistered – to anyone under 14.
Children of divorced parents
Children of divorced or separated parents can continue to move freely between both parents’ homes, as in previous lockdowns.
Furlough continues as it was.
Employees not at work can be paid 80 per cent of their usual salary up to a cap of £2,500 a month, funded by the government.
It applies to anyone who was employed on 30 October last year.
The furlough scheme has been extended several times and currently expires on 30 April.
Parents who can be at work themselves but have children out of school may be furloughed but only at the discretion of their employers.
Non-essential shops must stay closed
All non-essential retail, hospitality and personal care services not already closed must shut and remain closed.
Essential retailers including supermarkets, pharmacies, garden centres, and builders’ merchants may stay open.
Non-essential retail stores that must shut include:
· clothing and homeware stores,
· vehicle showrooms (other than for rental)
· betting shops
· tobacco and vape shops
· electronic goods and mobile phone shops
· auction houses (except for auctions of livestock or agricultural equipment)
· market stalls selling non-essential goods.
All pubs, cafes and restaurants shut; takeaway pints are banned
Restaurants/pubs/cafes may continue doing delivery or takeaway – but only for food.
Persons may walk to a pub, restaurant or other outlet to collect takeaway food.
Delivered takeaways delivered may include alcohol.
Beauty salons must shut as must nail bars, tattoo parlours, spas, massage parlours, and body and skin piercing services
The following may stay open:
● market stalls selling essential retail
● businesses primarily providing repair services
● petrol stations
● automatic (but not manual) car washes
● vehicle repair and MOT services
● bicycle shops
● taxi and vehicle hire businesses
● banks, building societies, post offices, short-term loan providers and money transfer businesses
● funeral directors
● laundrettes and dry cleaners
● medical and dental services
● vets and retailers of products and food for the upkeep and welfare of animals
● animal rescue centres, boarding facilities and animal groomers (may continue to be used for animal welfare, rather than aesthetic purposes)
● agricultural supplies shops
● mobility and disability support shops
● storage and distribution facilities
● car parks, public toilets and motorway service areas
● outdoor playgrounds
● outdoor parts of botanical gardens and heritage sites for exercise
● places of worship
● crematoriums and burial grounds
All gyms and pools must shut
This includes outdoor gyms and pools which were allowed remain open under Tier 4.
Outdoor sports venues including gyms, tennis courts and golf courses must close as must archery/driving/shooting ranges and riding arenas.
Outdoor team sports are not permitted except for elite, professional sport such as the Premier League.
BUT… PE lessons and sports clubs for children attending school (such as those of critical workers’ and vulnerable children) may continue.
It is permissible to meet a personal trainer on a one-to-one basis but only in a public outdoor space
Weddings and funerals
Weddings and civil partnership ceremonies are allowed with strict attendance limits and must only be in exceptional circumstances – such as deathbed weddings.
They must only take place with up to six people.
Anyone working is not included. Receptions afterwards are NOT permitted.
Funerals may be attended by a maximum of 30 people as in Tier 4. Wakes may only be attended by a maximum of six people.
Travelling for recreation or to a second or holiday home is not allowed. Cross-country travel is discouraged.
There is no formal upper limit on the distance one may exercise or visit a support bubble – but both are expected to be local.
Business travel is permitted where it is impossible to work from home or if one is a key worker.
Places of worship
Churches, temples and mosques may remain open for individual prayer and congregational worship such as services, unlike last year, but are expected to continue following social distancing rules
Overnight stays away from home, even in a second home or caravan, are NOT permitted.
One MAY stay overnight if:
● are visiting one’s support bubble
● unable to return to main residence
● need accommodation while moving home
● need accommodation to attend a funeral or related commemorative event
● require accommodation for work purposes or to provide voluntary services
● are a child requiring accommodation for school or care
● are homeless, seeking asylum, a vulnerable person seeking refuge, or if escaping harm (including domestic abuse)
● are an elite athlete or their support staff or parent, if the athlete is under 18 and it is necessary to be outside of the home for training or competition
Dentists, opticians and healthcare
Dentists, opticians and other healthcare appointments can continue to go ahead.
Driving lessons and tests are NOT permitted.
Zoos and outdoor attractions
All outdoor attractions – theme parks, zoos, outdoor sports facilities – must close except parks and playgrounds
It is permitted to visit public gardens and the grounds of heritage sites but indoor attractions at venues such as botanical gardens, heritage homes and landmarks must close. Outdoor grounds of such premises may stay open for outdoor exercise.
Entertainment venues must shut
· concert halls
· museums and galleries
· amusement arcades
· bingo halls
· bowling alleys
· skating rinks
· go-karting venues
· indoor play and soft play centres
· water parks
· theme parks
Plumbers, nannies, cleaners
Permitted in people’s home but must maintain social distancing and clean any surfaces they touch.
Permitted but people from outside your household or support bubble should not help UNLESS ‘absolutely necessary’.
Local elections across England will go ahead in May including the London Mayoral election postponed from last year.
Required by law in shops, public transport and most other indoor public spaces.